In these blog posts, you will find many occasions when I have mentioned the danger of including too many acronyms in your resume without defining them. It is easy to assume that “everyone” knows what an acronym means, only to discover that the acronym has an entirely different meaning in another company—or even in another division. A resume loaded with acronyms is difficult to read even by someone who knows exactly what you mean by each acronym.
But acronyms do have a place in resumes, if only because they save valuable space that is better used to describe your value to a company. Here are six rules to make sure you are using acronyms in the best possible way:
Generally, it is best to spell out an acronym somewhere in the resume. For example, a company looking for an expert in condition-based maintenance may set their applicant tracking system to look only for the full words, not for the acronym CBM.
Some acronyms, such as TV, are almost never spelled out. Others, like R&D, truly are universally known. But in a case like R&D, you might want to use the keywords “research” or “researcher” or “developer” or “develop” elsewhere in the resume.
Go easy on capitalization. For example, there is no reason to capitalize research and development even though the acronym (R&D) is capitalized. Keep capitalization for proper names.
Be careful about repetition. For example, say you worked on your company’s telecommunications service (TCS). It would be redundant for you to refer to your company’s “TCS service.”
The plural of an acronym does not normally require an apostrophe; for example, several technical analysts are TAs (“reviewed reports submitted by TAs”). Possessives do need a plural, as in “modified a newly hired TA’s reports to correct errors.”
Above all, make sure every acronym you use in your resume is correct. In the healthcare industry, the correct acronym is HIPAA, not HIPPA. The abbreviation for Alaska is AK, not AL (which stands for Alabama). The Association of Retired Flight Attendants might be ARFA or AORFA or even TARFA—make sure you get it right.
If you follow those six rules, you should feel confident about using acronyms in your resume when using acronyms make sense.